Spoilers: Game of Throne Origins – Wolverine

If I’m being completely honest, I gave up on the Song of Ice and Fire back in 2007 after I finished, “A Feast for Crows” and read George R R. Martin’s end note. I knew the series would never be finished at that point. It takes an author to smell another author’s b—shit. Here’s an excerpt of what he wrote and why I checked out. It comes from the 2006 paperback printing of “A Feast for Crows.”

“I did not forget about the other characters. Far from it. I wrote lots about them. Pages and pages and pages. Chapters and more chapters. I was still writing when it dawned on me that the book had become too big to publish in a single volume … and I wasn’t close to finished yet. To tell all of the story that I wanted to tell, I was going to have to cut the book in two.”

But the TV series cane along. In fact, it was the notion that the book series was going to be adapted by HBO that got me interested in reading the series in the first place. You must understand this was in the age of HBO adapting other book series like True Blood. In a way, the premium network was at the forefront of this phenomena long before such series became the flagship for various streaming services.

Even though I checked out on the book series, I watched season 1 of Game of Thrones and tried to get others interested in it. By the end of the season, I lost interest. It was just okay but it was slow like the books and full of the superfluous sex scenes HBO used to market all of its series at the time (see Rome). I let it go and just kept up with news tidbits and YouTube critics’ takes on the various plot developments in the years to come.

I picked up season 8, though, to be part of the conversation and to see how the the showrunners would complete the story without source material. What I didn’t know at the time and didn’t find out until S8:E3 was one of showrunners was responsible for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which was awful and stupid. It’s the kind of movie that takes what should be a guaranteed payday in the form of Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine and thinks it’s a good idea to first, make a prequel, then sew Ryan Reynold’s Deadpool’s mouth shut, and then tear multiple plot holes in the X-Men cinematic universe. And I know my criticism of this movie panned out at the very least in the case of the actual Deadpool movies starring Ryan Reynolds, which had R rated success.

So, I subscribed to season 8 of GoT on Hulu and watched it. Once things got bad, I was just amused. I heard about the leaks and checked them out. So far, they’ve proven to be accurate. And in any case, this season is a disaster. Character motivations don’t make sense. The hard cuts the script writers keep using so they don’t have to have the characters react to actual huge revelations come off as cheap and forced. The battle tactics are asinine. The physical logic of various climatic scenes is obviously flawed.

Let’s be more specific. Here are some of my favorite gripes.

Arya, while wounded, can move past an army of undead creatures to assassinate a supernatural being, but can’t sneak into and out of a city that’s letting people into and out of it better than Jaime.

The scoprions are able to fire at a deadly, semi-automatic pace and put a cloud of arrows in the air, but when Dany assaults the full Iron Fleet and the city, the bolts come one at a time. Furthermore, you don’t need to kill her dragon to stop her. Several dozen men firing crossbows or longbows at Dany (not the dragon) while she’s torching defenses would eventually land a hit and end the battle.

Armor became worthless.

The war against Cersei should have ended in episode 4 when Dany stood within arrow and scorpion range of the city’s defenses and Cersei didn’t just kill her.

Jon has done nothing in season 8. Yes, there are leaks for the final episode, but let’s be real. Arya killed Jon’s arc in episode 3.

Ghost’s treatment.

Bran’s uselessness.

Jaime’s heel to face to heel turn.

The Dothraki were initially going to charge into the dark at the army of the undead with normal weapons. Normal weapons. Yes, they got fire weapons later and it didn’t matter in the end, but they were prepared to charge without them!

I could keep going. Plenty of people have done some great analysis of these episodes and care more about them than I do. Check out Nerdrotic, Doomcock, or Mauler’s videos on YouTube.

The followup, a.k.a., the other half of a “Feast for Crows”, didn’t come out for another 5 years. Despite my disillusionment, I got “A Dance with Dragons” on my Nook Color. I only read the first few chapters and quit. I don’t care where whores go, Tyrion.

I sold my Nook Color at a garage sale a couple years ago. “The Winds of Winter” still has not come out. It’s effectively been 14 years since the last Song of Ice and Fire book. With that understanding, strap in for the final episode of season 8, because it’s going to get adamantium bullet levels of stupid.

Rise of Skywalker Teaser: More Poor Writing and Stupidity

After I saw The Force Awakens, I eagerly wrote a blog about it. My reaction was ambivalent at best. I was irked a bit by the logical inconsistencies in the script and the ill-defined world. But my expectations and excitement for the Last Jedi grew over the following two years. It was going to be the movie that would make up for The Force Awakens shortcomings, deliver on its setups, expand the mysteries, and build some characterization for the new main characters, Rey, Poe, and Finn.

Instead, The Last Jedi killed the franchise for me. It was stunningly awful. It wasn’t merely B movie awful or boring. It transcends awfulness. Each and every scene is a eldritch winding of poor writing that will drive you mad if you trying to untangle it.

I attempted to write a review of it, just as I did The Force Awakens, but I quit when I realized I wrote 2,000 words and hadn’t gotten past the opening scene of the film. It just wasn’t worth the effort because I didn’t care enough about the film to finish the review. It wasn’t worth my words.

Fast forward another year and a half and here we are seeing the teaser for Star Wars Episode IX: Rise of Skywalker.

No, I’m not going to link to it. It’s as bad as the Last Jedi. It exalts the character of Rey who hasn’t actually done anything in two films except fight Kylo Ren to an inconclusive battle and lift some rocks. I still don’t know why she’s even doing what she does or why anyone trusts her or relies on her. I don’t know how she became so proficient in the force or why she is more powerful than anyone else in the saga, save for the plot device/character of Snoke.

The Episode IX teaser opens with Rey flipping backwards over a speeding TIE Fighter, likely Kylo’s craft, and preparing to slice it with her light saber. It’s the centerpiece of this teaser, the first thing we see of this conclusion to the saga, and it’s so dumb for so many reasons:

  • Rey can lift several hundred tons of rocks with the force, but doesn’t smash the craft into the ground or rip its engines off.
  • Kylo or whoever pilots it decides to close into melee range of someone wielding a light saber instead of just shooting her.
  • The craft has no shields or armor.
  • Rey didn’t need to back flip to slice the craft; she could just duck beneath it or step to the side or throw her saber at it.

The scene belongs in a bad anime or video game, not in a Star Wars film. People have been referring to it as “jumping the TIE Fighter,” a snarky reference to the old term of “jumping the shark.” That’s very much on point.

Everything else that follows or fills in between this “scene” is just nostalgia marketing or more mystery boxes. Palpatine can be heard laughing at the end. Big deal. All that means is something will get made up out of nowhere, with no set up, to bring Palpatine back in some form. I guess no one ever caught onto his plotting in the 30 years between Episodes VI and VII.

I don’t care anymore. It doesn’t matter to me who Rey’s parents are or hearing Palpatine laugh. None of these mysteries or hooks have any meaningful payoffs. It’s all just a series of a–pulls at this point in a desperate attempt to salvage absolutely poor planning.

And that’s the worst thing in my mind. This continuation of the saga wasn’t planned out from the beginning. With a multi-billion dollar franchise on the line, they REFUSED to do the necessary work to meticulously plan and script out all three films before they even thought of casting and shooting them. It’s inexcusable.

Lastly, The Last Jedi destroyed the film version of the character of Luke Skywalker, reducing him to a coward and child-killer. It’s insulting to have the title of Episode IX further desecrate the memory of such a well-loved character.

Eliminators: A Mandroid, Scientist, Riverboat Captain, and Ninja Walk Into an 80s SciFi Movie…

With the 1986 film “Eliminators,” the joke is the punchline.

I purchased this “4 Sci-Fi Movie Marathon” for a few dollars from Amazon specifically to see this movie. I had fond memories of it when I was a child. I remember renting it on VHS from the local video rental store and catching it on HBO when premium cable channels were still a relatively new thing. I had images of a half-man, half-tank cyborg rolling around and shooting people with lasers, an even more powerful and evil cyborg that was planning to travel into the past when civilization was still young and dominant mankind as an immortal god-emperor, and a somewhat tragic ending. There was this lingering sense of drama and building suspense and intrigue.

All of this demonstrates how memories alter over time. The bad, if it was even understood, gets worn away and only the pleasant things remain. Time doesn’t heal all so much as it obfuscates the past for you.

Because Eliminators is not a good movie. And without alcohol or a group of friends, it’s not even that funny of a B-movie, because it drags.

The basic plot involves evil Dr. Reeves and his assistant Takada creating all sorts of technological marvels in a compound deep in the Mexican bayou/forest/wilderness. One of their wonders if the film’s protagonist, the Mandroid. The Mandroid was once a pilot that crashed along the river leading to the compound and Reeves and Takada re-purposed his human body by supplemental it with robot parts intended for space exploration.

The Mandroid only has the barest fragments of his human past and follows the orders of Reeves and Takada as they use him as a test pilot for their time machine. Yes, Reeves and Takada built a time machine and they’ve send the Mandroid back to the Roman Empire at least once where the cyborg returned with a centurion’s shield and no memory of how he got it. Spoilers, he blasted a bunch of roman soldiers with his arm laser cannon and took it.

After this successful use of the time machine, Reeves orders Takada to dismantle the Mandroid as they no longer need him. Takada is appalled by this and argues against it but seems to bend to Reeves’ will. So, Takada takes the Mandroid aside and explains what Reeves intends and the Mandroid agrees to escape the compound with Takada, after securing his mobile unit (tank tracks, see pick below).

During this escape, we also learn Reeves is not in good health. He plugs himself into a machine to filter something from his body, but the Wily scientist has a plan to prolong his life.

Takada is shot by one of the many plainclothes guards protecting the compound while assisting the Mandroid in his escape, but he lives long enough to tell the Mandroid to seek out a Col. Nora Hunter (played by Denise Crosby of Star Trek: TNG fame). And the Mandroid takes several shots from a ridiculously modified rifle fired by Reeves’ top enforcer, Ray. Poor Ray gets left out of a lot of plot synopsis but he does cause a lot of headaches for the Mandroid.

Though damaged, the Mandroid escapes the compound and rides into the wilderness. He eventually discards his tank half and reattaches his legs through the miracle of film editing. Not long after, we’re introduced Nora. She’s some sort of scientist/engineer. She’s tinkering with a semi-artificially intelligent, gallon-of-milk-sized robot called S.P.O.T. (Don’t ask what the acronym means; it’s stupid) that’s designed to be an advanced scout and tracker. And it has flight and matter teleportation abilities. It can zip around rapidly as a ball of colored light.

The Mandroid forces his way into her lab and reveals himself to her. There’s an exchange of exposition. Nora’s ticked that Dr. Reeves has been stealing her designs and using them for no-good. The Mandroid is based on her designs and she even offers to fix his damaged parts. He’s reluctant to take her with him to confront Reeves and stop his evil plans, but Nora’s persistent and the Mandroid does see a benefit in having her and Spot.

While driving into Mexico, the pair run across a pair of carjackers and the Mandroid is forced to intervene. He blows up their car. The plot continues.

The pair get a hotel room somewhere in Mexico. The Mandroid and Spot fight over the TV channel. Nora goes to a local bar to find a guide to take them up river to find Reeves’ compound. The Mandroid doesn’t know how to find his way back for reasons and only has a general idea.

This is where we’re introduced to the Han Solo/Yamcha of the adventure in Harry Fontana. Harry is a weasel of a riverboat pilot, but he’s clever enough to outsmart all the other local competition like his primary rival, Bayou Betty. Nora draws a lot of attention when she enters the seedy Mexican tavern because she’s pretty and declares she wants the toughest guide in the place. This prompts Betty to bunch her own crewman in the face and begin a tavern brawl designed to anoint the last man standing as the toughest guide worthy of taking Nora upriver. Harry stays out of the brawl until the very end when Betty is the last person standing, clocks her on the head with a beer bottle, and then strolls out to accept Nora’s job.

It’s worth mentioning that this movie shares a lot of bizarre commonalities with both the original Dragon Ball and Star Wars: A New Hope. The trio of Goku, Bulma, and Yamcha match up pretty well with the Mandroid, Nora, and Harry. The same is true for Luke, Leia, and Han in the same order. Maybe that was just a really popular triangle of characters back in the day.

The Mandroid disguises himself as a wounded friend of Nora’s by wrapping his cybernetic head in bandages and weather clothing to hide the rest. Harry is initially suspicious, if not jealous, but agrees to take the Mandroid, too, for some extra money.

This is where the film gets tedious. It felt like the next half hour consisted of a drawn-out, badly-done speedboat chase where the film crew was limited to some stock footage, a very small body of water in which to film, and some use of either a projected background or green screen. Bayou Betty and others chase Harry and his boat, shooting shotguns at the heroes to try to force Harry to forfeit Nora and the Mandroid to them so they can make the money from the guide job. Yeah, it doesn’t make sense. Neither does Harry’s constant zigzagging, the fact his boat doesn’t leave a wake in any of the scenes, or that there’s little to no wind affecting Nora’s hair during this high speed boat chase up river.

And of course Harry’s boat has sudden engine troubles (like the Millennium Falcon) he can’t fix, but Nora can. So she does, but it’s not enough and the Mandroid has to intervene by launching a torpedo to take out Bayou Betty’s boat.

And these poor boats gets used in at least two more chases just as ridiculous. The Millennium Falcon Harry’s boat is not.

Skipping ahead, the Mandroid and Nora try to ditch Harry and do for a while. They find the plane in which the Mandroid crashed and he learns he once had a family. Nora almost drowns after swimming into the crashed and partially submerged fuselage, but it saved by the Mandroid casting a line to keep the plane from sinking completely and Harry returning in the nick of time to chop some tree branches out of the way so Nora can swim free.

Harry learns the truth and story of the Mandroid and is determined to help. I’m skipping the part where Ray found Bayou Betty in the water and learned that the Mandroid was around. Ray then caught up to Harry, but Harry pulled a few tricks and wrecked Rays’ boat. It was boring.

Moving on, the trio re-board Harry’s boat to go further up river rather than try to find a way through the “jungle” by way of old Indian trails. Along the way, the Mandroid falls overboard for some reason and Nora and Harry can neither find nor retrieve the metal man from the deep river water. Upset, they vow to continue on the quest to stop Reeves. Then Harry’s boat engine craps out for good and the pair go on foot where they are captured by cavemen. Yes, cavemen, neanderthals. It’s never explicitly explained, but it hints that Reeves has been making many trips into the past and returning with all sort of artifacts. Later on, he’s shown to have a vault full of ancient roman items.

The pair manage to escape when Harry steals a kiss to give Nora some bullets to toss into a fire. They’re eventually reunited with the Mandroid who managed to walk out of the water and come across a real life ninja in the form of Kuji Takada, the son of Takada who has been searching for his father.

Altogether, they locate and assault Reeves compound. The Mandroid recovers his discarded mobility unit and rolls around shoot lasers at hillbilly’s on modified three-wheelers until he gets tipped over and has to go back to his legs. They concoct some plan where the Mandroid will distract Reeves and his guards while the other three sneak inside and sabotage the time machine. Nora deduced what Reeves was planning after piecing together the Mandroid’s story and her understanding of the technology Spot uses to transport around.

It’s during this infiltration that Kuji ninja’s his way through a spinning fans without being touched by the blades. And Harry sets off an alarm by trying to remove an artificial from Reeves’ roman collection. The three are captured and brought to the courtyard where they are used as hostages to force the Mandroid to disarm (literally) his laser cannon. The Mandroid complies, but Kuji gets the drop on the guards and another fight ensues with the heroes beating Ray and the other henchman.

It’s at this point the Mandroid demands Reeves come out and face him. And Reeves does. This might have been more shocking if it hadn’t been shown earlier. Reeves emerges as a blood-red, Roman Emperor version of the Mandroid. He’s a far more advanced cyborg. In the earlier scene, he was shown tinkering with a lightning cannon mounted on his forearm that also acted as a kind of telekinetic beam. He used it to grab Ray by the balls, akin to Dark Helmet from Spaceballs, to further motivate the poor guy into stopping the Mandroid. It didn’t work.

This improved cyborg body is way too much for the already damaged Mandroid and Reeves blasts our hero multiple times with lasers before leaving the Mandroid for dead in the courtyard. He then traps the remaining three heroes in an ever-shrinking energy force field that threatens to crush and electrocute them to death, while he goes inside to fire up his time machine and become the god emperor of Rome.

Fortunately for civilization as we know it, the Mandroid recovers long enough to crawl over to the trio and sacrifice himself by grounding out the charge of the force field. The trio don’t have time to mourn their friend because they need to hurry to stop Reeves from traveling into the past and the movie needs to end. By the time they find Reeves, he’s already in the time machine and traveling into the past. Nora tries and fails to hack the control computers as the date on the screen winds closer to the Roman era.

Harry bemoans he didn’t learn about computers and wipes and punches a keyboard, causing the control system to short and Reeves to overshoot his target by millions and millions of years into the past, probably to become the god emperor of the Engineers from Prometheus.

The movie cuts back to the group realizing the stopped Reeves. They cheer and laugh and the frame freezes on them. Credits roll. The Mandroid’s carcass still lies warm in the courtyard with no further mention made. Tragedy.

So, that’s the basic summary of the plot. I can understand why I might have liked this movie as a kid. It has robots, cyborgs, time travel, and ninjas. I mean, there you go. But it doesn’t hold up, even as a good, bad movie watch. It’s too slow. Though, it may be serviceable with drinks and friends and might make for an interesting remake with a little more thought put into it.

The same can be said of another movie in the 4-pack. Arena (1989) does right what Eliminators did wrong. It moves much faster, almost too fast, and doesn’t linger on stretching it’s run time out with sequences it had no business trying to film. But Arena is worth its own blog.

Lastly, there is no explanation why Eliminators was titled Eliminators given in the movie.


Thoughts on Tesla vs. Lovecraft

A buddy purchased Tesla vs. Lovecraft for me as a gift on Steam. As a fan of both historical figures I was immediately intrigued and it was just the kind of relatively mindless game play I could get into. It’s a two-stick-style shooter where you, as Nikola Tesla, use a variety of technological inventions and weapons to push back hordes of Lovecraftian horrors summoned by H.P. Lovecraft himself with his book of eldritch magic. Apparently, Tesla is meddling with powers man was never meant to meddle with and Lovecraft is wielding magic man was never intended to wield to stop Tesla’s scientific progress to prevent a cataclysm (or a Cthulhu-ysm).

The short of it is the game is fun, short, a bit unbalanced, a bit unpolished, and maybe a little too expensive ($15 currently on Steam). It can also be a bit repetitive, but no more so than say other games where you slaughter hordes of enemies, think the Diablo series.

You can see from the world map image that there are at least a couple of dozen stages. Each stage starts off the same way with Tesla in his mech (of course he has a mech) for a limited time to help get you started. But the mech eventually explodes and you’re left with just Tesla, whatever perks he has, and a simple pistol. Perks are various abilities and upgrades Tesla gets as he levels up in the stage.  These include things like extra damage, ricocheting bullets,  regenerating health, and extra barrels. The early part of the stage is usually the make it or break it part of the gameplay. You’re relatively under-gunned and outclassed by the ever-increasing swarm of eldritch creatures spawning from various gates. You’ll spend that first couple of minutes frantically running away, shooting, and teleporting around the map to not get swallowed by the flood of spawns until you find a decent weapon.

The weapons spawn randomly but are also appear to be level dependent. Early on, you can get a more powerful handgun or a shotgun, but later and with more levels you will get Gauss rifles and lightning guns. If you don’t get a good weapon early, especially in the more difficult levels, you’re probably going to die. Or even late in the stage and with many levels, you can imperil yourself by accidentally picking up a crappy weapon, going from a Gauss shotgun to a regular shot gun.

There are other random power-ups you can collect in each stage in addition to weapons like pieces to rebuild your mech or limited-use super weapons. These are just nice little bonuses to help you survive. Or in the case of the mech, to quickly take down one of the bosses, which tend to be bigger versions of ordinary monsters with some special ability.

The game’s world map has three planes or difficulty settings. By the second one, the ether plane, ether crystals start to spawn in stages and you can use these to purchase various “inventions” that power Tesla up. These inventions increase in cost as your improve them, but they are what help poor Tesla survive in the early going of the higher difficulty stages. Extra uses of teleport and starting with a super weapon are sometimes the only things that will keep you alive in narrow alleyways surrounded by monsters.

There are also special power perks or items that rarely spawn. These all seem awesome at first, like infinite uses of teleport or super weapons, but some can get you killed in the late stages. Picking up the death ray late in the game when you have a lot of perks can do more harm that good because the death ray doesn’t benefit from the perks you’ve collected until then nearly as much as some other weapons and has limited range. You’re usually far better off with a gauss shotgun or lighting ball gun near the end of a frantic stage than getting the death ray.

When you kill monsters, you can experience points which gain levels. When you level up, you get to choose one of two random perks. There’s some strategy as to what you should take at any given time, depending on the type of monsters trying to kill you, the weapon you have, etc. But if you just get unlucky, you’re first first few perks could be useless. I needed to replay certain stages several times just to get a good draw of perks and weapons to be able to survive long enough to kill monsters in mass and not be overwhelmed. There is an invention you can spend crystals on to reshuffle the pair of perks you get to choose from on a level up, at least.

It’s worth noting that I really only played the single player campaign and didn’t try co-op. I also only gave the survival mode, but didn’t take to it. So, take this all with a grain of salt. The co-op coul dbe the best part of this game and I just don’t know because I didn’t try it. And ss silly as it sounds, I was most looking forward to the quirky campaign story and setting. And that’s where I was a little disappointed. The cut scenes are simple and the animation pretty underwhelming, akin to old flash videos. I do enjoy the art style however and the locations, like Wardenclyffe Tower and the Mountains of Madness. Those were a treat.

The developers, 10tons Ltd., are patching and improving this game, which released back on Jan. 26 of this year. So, I expect many of my issues to be improved over time. But having gone through the campaign, I don’t have any real desire to return to it just to grind for crystals to unlock more inventions to compete in the survival mode for a high score.

But I do recommend picking this up if you enjoy two-stick shooters or fast action games and catch it on a Steam sale.

Divergent Chill: Battle of Nesma Reviewed by Bargain Book Reviews

Bargain Book Reviews posted their review of Divergent Chill: Battle of Nesma today!

It’s the harshest review I’ve gotten so far, but that kind of makes it more exciting. If you’re always being told how wonderful you are, you tend to develop blind spots and fail to see your weaknesses. Fortunately, it’s not a bad review, a solid 3.2 out of 5 from a tough reviewer.

An excerpt follows. You can read the full review here.

“To put it in perspective, Alden basically went into a jungle, trapped a juvenile tiger, put it on a leash, dyed its fur a different color, and decided to walk it around a major city like any other pet. What could go wrong?

In short? A lot.”

Thanks again, Bargain Book Reviews!